Since completing his Ph.D. in immunology at the Weizmann Institute, Prof. Zelig Eshhar has focused his research on molecular recognition in the immune system – the mechanisms by which immune cells and molecules "recognize" one another. In the late 1980s, he developed an immune cancer therapy that employs "T bodies" – white blood T cells engineered with receptors that possess the antibodies’ recognition unit, which helps them identify tumors.
In August 2011, University of Pennsylvania researchers reported in The New England Journal of Medicine that they had successfully used this approach in a pilot trial of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The patients were treated with their own T cells, genetically engineered based on Prof Eshhar’s method. Encouraged by this initial success, the researchers plan to apply the method to the treatment of other malignancies, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, acute lymphocytic leukemia and childhood leukemia that is not alleviated by standard family. They also consider using the T bodies in patients with solid tumors, such as ovarian and pancreatic cancer.